Chapter 17~Getting a New Ride
“We should have gone back for her!” Joe yelled as he punched the trunk of a tree. All Angel and I could do as we watched him keep punching it was let him blow off some steam. “We never should have left her behind. I should have just jumped out of that boat and beat that pirate within an inch of his life.”
I watched him as he continued to punch the tree. Shortly after escaping from Blackbeard, the ship had washed up on the shores of a small island. It looked like it could be volcanic, as there was a lot of smoking coming from the mountain in the center of the island. Besides that, everything looked very tropical, with palm trees and a blue ocean along the shore of the island. However, Joe’s current condition made the beauty of the spot seem to fade just a little. It wasn’t until I saw some red on his knuckles that I finally started to step in.
“We can’t change what has already happened,” I told him. He didn’t even look at me and punched the trunk of the tree one last time before dropping to his knees on the warm sand.
“But we could have. We could have done something, anything,” he said like it was a mantra or something.
“Maybe there was something and we just didn’t see it, but that doesn’t matter right now. If we stay on this shore, we’ll be easy targets for Blackbeard and then we’ll be no help to anyone, including El,” I said and this seemed to at least calm him down a little. I placed my hand on his shoulder in a reassuring motion and Joe got back to his feet. “Don’t worry; we are going to save her. I swear it on the River Styx.”
There was a roll of thunder across the sky and I realized what I had just promised. As much as I would have liked to save El, I had no idea where she was, how to save her, or for that matter how we were going to save ourselves. Joe seemed a bit nervous as well, looking me straight in the eye.
“I hope you can keep that promise,” Joe said with complete seriousness.
“I hope so as well, but before that we need to get off this island,” I said. “We could chop down a few trees and make a raft or something.”
“Listen, you start hacking at trees and I’ll go find some real help,” Angel said sarcastically. Joe and I turned to her confused but she just rolled her eyes before pointing to the volcano. “That is the forge of Hephaestus, I’m sure he could help us if we ask.”
“I like her plan better,” Joe said and a moment later we were trudging through the forest. As we walked, I noticed just how empty the island was. We had been walking for almost ten minutes and I hadn’t heard so much as a bird call. Joe at one point tripped on a tree root and fell. “Ow!”
“What happened?” I asked him. He was holding his hand and I remembered he had cut it earlier. Now, his hand was covered in sand and I knew it couldn’t have felt good. He tried to hide it, but I had already seen it. “Here, I have some nectar in my backpack. We should fix up that hand before it gets infected or something.”
“Don’t worry about it. We should save any supplies we have until we really need them. I just have a few cuts is all, they’ll heal on their own,” Joe said convincingly, but his hand still looked pretty beat up.
“But by that logic, we will save all our supplies until it is too late to use them. I’m not saying that I’m going to dump the whole bottle on your hand, just a few drops to speed up the feeling process,” I explained. However, we kept arguing in circles until Angel got in the middle of us again.
“By the gods, boys can be so stubborn,” she commented before walking over to a small creek a small distance away. She reached her hand into the water and scooped out a small amount. She then walked over to Joe and placed her hand over his. There was a small faint blue light that lasted for only a minute before it vanished and when she removed her hand, Joe’s hand was clear of all blood. Some of the scratches were still visible, but they were a big step up from what they were. “There, now can we please get moving?”
“How did you do that?” I asked as we walked along.
“I’m a naiad so we learn how to work a little magic with water as we grow up. I can’t just call on the water to aid me like children of Poseidon, we have to work to get as good as we are,” Angel said as she walked toward the mountain. “Healing magic is pretty much the same for every species, as most beings, that aren’t monsters or gods that is, are pretty much made of water.”
“Well thanks for that,” Joe said as he stretched his hand out a few times. “At least the pain is gone, for the most part.”
“Don’t mention it,” she said before jumping over a fallen log on the ground. It was then that I noticed that she had been leading the way ever since we got to this island.
“Hey Angel, how did you know that this island had one of Hephaestus’ forges on it? I mean it could have just been a volcanic island,” I asked her, but she didn’t turn to face me.
“When you’ve lived as long as I have, you pretty much hear every story about every quest. Camp Half-Blood has been on the borders of my lake for almost 300 years now and quest crazy demigods have come and gone during those times. The lake is a popular place so I have overheard a few stories. A group came here almost two decades ago to retrieve the Golden Fleece and I heard a boy mention passing the forge to a kid named Beckendorf. The description matches the one I heard,” she said before moving a bit quicker. I wondered how she could move so fast in a forest while wearing flip-flops.
“Are you by any chance…excited?” I asked her and for a second I thought I saw her cheeks turn a slightly darker shade of blue.
“Of course not! Who would be excited about seeing Hephaestus? He doesn’t really like people much and he will most certainly kill us if he doesn’t like us,” she half shouted, but she didn’t slow down at all.
“Everyone freeze!” Joe said and we all stopped dead in our tracks. He was looking around in the trees, but I didn’t see anything. “We’re being watched.”
“How do you know?” I asked, as I still didn’t see anything at all.
“Right there,” Joe said as he pointed to a coconut. I thought that maybe he had maybe gone a little nuts himself, but when I looked closer I saw a small reflective surface.
“Is that a camera?” I asked as I took a few steps closer to get a good look. The coconut however didn’t seem to like this and fell from the tree, almost hitting me square in the head. I kicked it away and it ended up crashing into the trunk of another tree. Just then, about ten coconuts fell from the three and landed on top of the first one, rolling all around the ground.
“Guys, run!” Joe said, but I wasn’t sure why he was scared of a bunch of coconuts. I looked back and saw that they were all unfolding into tiny little machine gun holding coconuts of doom.
“Oh that is so uncool,” I said right before jumping behind a tree as they began to unload a round at me. “Alright, running would be a good idea right now.”
We began running through the woods and every so often I would hear another coconut hit the ground. By now I stopped caring if they were falling to try and destroy us or they were falling from all the bullets hitting the trees we were ducking behind.
“Is Hephaestus always this welcoming?” I called out as we kept running.
“Pretty much,” Joe said before turning around a sending a blast of wind at the coconut warriors. I was hopeful when they easily rolled backward, but they would just keep rolling until the landed back on their small spider-like legs.
“Just keep heading for the mountain!” Angel called as we were almost there. We kept running until we reached the base of the mountain, but all we found was a large rock file at the base of a cliff. “Does anyone know where the entrance to the forge is?”
“Normally his forges have some kind of symbol or something that acts as a doorway,” Joe said as he started searching the rocks, hoping to find something. I started looking as well, pushing smaller rocks around and feeling around the larger ones for some kind of mark.
“They’re getting closer,” Angel said as she looked back. A few of the coconut machines were crawling over a log and had a clear shot at us, but began to surround us instead, waiting for the rest I guess. Eventually all eleven of the stupid things closed in on us and we were staring them down with our backs against the rock wall.
“Killed by an army of coconuts, who would have thought I’d go out like this,” I said to myself, but just then I felt a very smooth rounded rock with my hand as I backed up into the rocks. As I heard the guns reload, I turned it and the entire rock self shifted and all three of us fell into the rocks just as the little machines unloaded at us, but thankfully we were already inside.
“Thank the gods,” Joe said as he turned around, but his face turned pale for just a second. I turned around to see what he was looking at and my face turned pale as well. I was staring into the face of a huge metallic dragon. It’s razor sharp teeth looked like it could break a steel beam for a snack and its blazing red eyes seemed to be staring us down.
“Don’t worry, it isn’t on or anything,” Angel said as she slapped the dragon’s head and there was a hollow metallic sound, but the dragon made no response. “Come on, let’s see what else is here.”
She ran off looking at all the half finished and completely finished projects, with Joe and I close behind. I found a small music box and opened it up before jumping back and watching to see what it did. It fired a net that grabbed an automaton and the box began playing It’s a Small World. It must have been a trap for Aphrodite and Ares, but I wondered how many things in here were actually traps for his wife.
“Hey, what do you think this does?” Angel asked, holding a remote control that looked like it was for a small car like the ones I used to play with. Before anyone could stop her, she turned it on and pushed one of the small joysticks forward. I expected some 50 foot robot to start walking or maybe a giant mechanical bull, but I was surprised when a small robotic turtle began to slowly walk out of a pile of scrap.
“Huh, I was expecting something a little more flashy,” I said, but that was before Angel hit a small red button at the top of the remote. The turtle retracted into his shell and began spinning until small flames began to shoot out and it began to hover into the air. Before any of us could react, it began flying across the room and crashed right into a set of automatons as if they were bowling pins, earning the turtle a strike.
“What is going on in here!” came a huge voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once. An empty forge that was on the opposite side of the room erupted into flames. We all stood back as we could barely stand the immense heat, but the flames began to take on a physical form. “Who dares enter my forge!”
“Sorry, that would be us,” Joe said looking up at the god of fire. “Long time no see.”
The flames surrounding Hephaestus died down and the heat seemed to at least fade to tolerable levels. Hephaestus was a big guy, but reminded me a lot of my mom’s mechanic. The guy was covered in grease all over his work clothes, as well as a few black smudges on his face and hands. He was also wearing a pair of steel toed work boots and a pair of work gloves hanging from his pocket. Once he looked at us, I watched as he rubbed his chin, causing a few sparks to spring from his beard.
“Don’t I know you?” he said, looking at Joe.
“It’s me Joe. You made me a motorcycle,” Joe said, and this seemed to ring a bell in the god’s head.
“Right right, able to travel at the speed of sound and could fly. Truly a work of art,” he said. “I remember you being older. Did you get into a fight with Hebe?”
“It’s a long story,” Joe said back. “Listen, we need a little help. Our ship kind of got taken over by pirates and we need a new one.”
“I don’t have time for that. Someone stole the control circuit to my dragon over there and I have to find it,” Hephaestus said as he took every piece apart in a pile of scrap apart and put it all back into an old fashioned car, but still looked unhappy. “Not here either.”
“Why is it so important you find it?” I asked him.
“Well Athena and Ares got at it again about a week ago. I somehow got stuck in the middle and agreed to make anything they wanted to fight. While Ares was pretty vague about what he wanted, pretty much saying that whatever I built had to be at least 20% cooler, Athena gave me a detailed list of programs she wanted programmed into the dragon’s combat systems in the control circuit. Not sure why she wanted a dragon, but I’m not picky. Plus, I’ll get to enjoy watching Ares get his butt kicked. However, if I can’t find that circuit than Ares wins by default,” Hephaestus said, turning another pile of scrap into something, this time into a large tank.
“We could help you find it,” Angel suggested. “If we find it, can you make us a ship?”
“Please, if I can't find it what makes you think you can?” he asked, causing Angel to look a little disheartened. “Alright, fine. If you find it then I’ll make you a ship.”
“And we are going up against a child of Ares, so would it be possible to make some weapons for the ship he couldn’t control?” she asked him, still giving him that sad look.
“Weapons that aren’t weapons, that sounds ridiculous,” the fore god said with a gruff.
“Well if you can’t do it…” Angel began, but Hephaestus quickly cut her off.
“I never said I couldn’t do it,” Hephaestus said sternly. He walked over to his work desk and ran his arm across it, knocking over several small machines onto the ground. He pulled out a pencil and some paper and began drawing a few designs. “ I need to make some plans. I wonder if Swift has any ideas?”
“Swift?” I asked him. “Like Aisling Swift, because she’s on vacation.”
“Aisling Swift?” Hephaestus asked. “No, Nolan Swift. You see that trap over there driving that automaton crazy with It’s a Small World?”
I looked over and saw the automaton that I had sprung the trap on. I thought it was off or something, but it was currently smashing its own head in with his fist until his head sprung off his body like it was spring loaded or something.
“It was Swift’s idea to get it to play music. Aphrodite never stood a chance against a music box. I call him up sometimes when thinking of new projects. He is one inventive son of Hermes. Should have been my son with a mind like his,” Hephaestus said. “He has a talent for making traps and planning pranks. But no time for that, go find that control circuit. It looks just like this.”
He drew a picture and handed it to us. It looked simple enough and I showed it to the others. We all nodded to the god and began our search in the forge of Hephaestus.